By Nadia Rasetta
This month saw the conclusion of the second most anticipated soccer event in the world: the UEFA European Cup.
We witnessed some amazing action and goals from all of the European teams that made it to the cup this year. And the most anticipated game of the series aired on Sunday, July 10, when Portugal faced host France in the Euro 2016 Finals.
THE ROAD TO THE FINALS
France placed top in their group during the qualifying mathes with 7 points. They won two games against Romania (2-1) and Albania (2-0) and tied Switzerland at 0.
Portugal, on the other hand, had more of a difficult time making it past the qualifications. Portugal tied all three games in their qualifying group, placing themselves in third.
In past Euro Cups, only the top two teams of each group would make it to the round of 16. This year, however, officials decided to pick the top 12 (then the remaining four teams would be the top four third place teams), and Portugal was lucky enough to just make it by as one of the select four.
The Round of 16
France was in a bit of predicament when the Republic of Ireland scored within the first two minutes of the game. But Antoine Griezmann sealed the deal for France after scoring two goals back to back in the second half.
Portugal, however, had a bit more of a challenge. Both the Portuguese and their opponents, Croatia, played their hearts out. The game was almost taken to penalty shootouts until one of Portugal’s substitutes made all the difference. Ricardo Quaresma was subbed on at the 87th minute. With an opportunity that he absolutely could not miss, Quaresma headed the ball into the Croatian net at the 117th minute. He put the finishing touches on Portugal’s advance.
Deemed the underdogs of the Cup, Iceland advanced to the quarterfinals after defeating England in dominating fashion. Unfortunately for them, they did not stand a chance against the Cup hosts France. The French squad began dominating the game with a 4-0 lead within the first half of the game. Iceland looked like they could make a comeback after scoring two goals in the second half, but France sealed the deal with a fifth goal.
Unlike in the round of 16, Portugal was not able to score a last minute goal to avoid a penalty shoot out. The teams moved to the shoot out tied at 1-1. Poland scored an early goal two minutes into the game to take the lead, but Portugal soon tied it up 30 minutes later. Portugal later won 5-3 in penalties.
It was the World Cup Champions versus the hosts. Germany moved to the semis against France after their first win over Italy. But that wasn’t enough for the champions to beat France. The team lost 2-0 against the home team. The first goal came easily to France as Germany gave up yet another penalty shot due to a handball in the box (they did the same thing in their previous match with Italy). France’s second goal came very late in the game, setting the stage from for France to advance to the Euro Cup Finals. Both goals were scored in extra time, and both by the same player (and man of the match) Antoine Griezmann.
Although Wales was the favored team to win this match, they just could not seem to get past the Portugal defense. Wales dominated the game with ball possession could not seem to get the ball in the back of Portugal’s net. Both teams saw no goals within the first half. It wasn’t until the second half when Cristiano Ronaldo headed the ball into the back of Wales’ net off a well-executed corner kick. But that wasn’t satisfying enough for the Portuguese captain. Just three minutes later, Ronaldo assisted in the second goal scored by Nani, sealing the deal for Portugal, and advancing them to the finals with a 2-0 win over Wales.
France had won their previous 10 games against Portugal, but their opponents knew better than anyone than home advantage is not a magic bullet in any championship final.
Portugal took on France in the 2016 European Cup Finals. Portugal had only made it to the Finals twice in Euro history and never in World Cup history. France, on the other hand, had one World Cup championship under their belt and two European championships. Unfortunately for France, they lost their chance at a third European championship after losing to Portugal in overtime. Finally, Portugal has a championship title to their name.
The game was one for the history books. Both teams played fiercely and passionately, with ball possession being pretty much even between both teams. Unfortunately for Portugal, their star player and captain Cristiano Ronaldo was injured and had to be substituted 25 minutes into the game. Ricardo Quaresma was substituted on for Ronaldo.
After 90 scoreless minutes, the game was taken into over time. During the first 15 minutes of overtime, no goals were scored once again, but four yellow cards were handed out (3 to the Portuguese and 1 to the French players), all within a span of 5 minutes. It wasn’t until a substituted Portuguese player, Èder, put Portugal ahead with an unstoppable goal. Still, with 10 minutes left to tie it up, France could not find a hole in the Portuguese defense.
Portugal is the 2016 UEFA European Cup Champions.